One woman’s rubbish is another’s new outfit

It’s been a while since I’ve turned to minimalism on the blog, it’s all been about this turning 40 business, mixed with a bit of mindfulness, but minimalism is still a great passion of mine and I am proud of how my wife and I have reduced our belongings and our needs.

Alongside this reduction in things, I’ve seen an increase in time spent together, in improved wellbeing  – I feel calmer, happier and more organised –  and in the time spent in experiencing things, rather than tidying, cleaning and paying for it all.

Yet there are still key areas that I can’t get round with minimalism; my wardrobe, throwing things away and reducing the waste we produce.

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Procrastination – why do we do it and how do we stop it?

Hands up who washes up, on cleans the house and vacuums the car when they have something important to do? (My hand shoots up high at this point). Hands up who finds they’ve spent three hours on social media when they had a blog post to write, a piece of work to do or have promised themselves they’ll get round to something you really should have done  ages ago? (Hand shoots up a bit higher). So hey we all procrastinate at some time, but according to the leading experts on procrastination 20% of us are chronic procrastinators. This would be those of us who put bills in a drawer, who never get the important stuff done, and who never ever buy a gift on time. But why do we procrastinate?

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Why I haven’t blogged for over a month – also known as being a bit overwhelmed by it all…

It’s been over a month since I posted last. That’s the longest time in a while. It’s not that I have nothing to say. I’ve actually got about a dozen posts in my head, but I haven’t wanted to go near my blog. Why I hear you ask? (Well you may not be but I’m going to tell you anyway)

Continue reading “Why I haven’t blogged for over a month – also known as being a bit overwhelmed by it all…”

The Turning 40 series; Part 1, having a midlife moment

This year, 40 years ago the world changed on it’s axis when I was launched into it, and now , 40 years later, the months are creeping by until my 40th birthday.  I expected to feel fine about this, I was delighted with my 30th, and my 30s have been wonderful years for me, where I’ve romped in the Capital, returned to live nearer my family, met the love of my life and settled in the country. It’s also the decade that I found and embraced mindfulness and minimalism, and started living a lifestyle with less, meditating and living for now. So it’s fair to say out of the three decades of my life, it definitely takes first prize.

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How to have a mindful Christmas

So the tinsel is up, the turkey is thawing out and the sherry is being poured, but how do you manage not to throttle Aunty Bertha when she tells you that you’ve put on weight for the tenth Christmas in a row, or avoid the tense atmosphere between your divorced Mum and Dad who only come together once a year ‘for the kids’?

Christmas is a funny time of year, all the advertising and a lot of the social media content we see point to a great family Christmas, all around the table, laughing and joking and having a whale of a time but for a lot of people Christmas can be a minefield of interpreting social nuances and avoiding the family member who weeps uncontrollably when you ask them how they are (that has been me on occasion at Christmas I have to say…or how about the time I ate so many biscuits I got awful indigestion and had to lie down and miss Christmas dinner? I fully admit I am one of the relatives you need to plan for!)

On a serious note, if you are worrying about how to cope this Christmas, use some of these mindful tips to help you through the next few days

1. Get on YouTube and find a three minute breathing space meditation. If you search ‘three minute breathing space meditation’ lots will come up and that’s a real quick space to take some time out when you think you’ll explode if anyone asks you where your boyfriend (that you split up with three months ago) is

2. Get some fresh air- taking  a walk either on your own or with others who can bare a bit of silence will give you a chance to get mindful; feel the cold air on your skin, hear the birds singing, look round and see the sights in your neighbourhood, or the place you’re visiting, hear the noise of cars in the distance and just experience being in the moment.

3. Give yourself and others compassion – it can be hard when we’re with our nearest and dearest because often they’ve known us the longest of anyone and know our weak spots, and the things that can send us from 0-60 on the rage-ometer, but actually being kind to yourself,  nourishing yourself with something other than Yule log, or roast potatoes, taking time out to do something you love such as reading or knitting, will help bring a sense of calm of peace to the festivities. Add in some compassion for those around you and things will start to feel a whole lot better

4. Rather than being desperate to get home, or get through the boredom of the Queen’s speech that Dad loves to watch, revel in the moment, the glorious being together as a family, or with your partner, or even the delicious alone time with the cat, away from the pressures of work. Stop worrying about how you’re going to tidy everything up, or what’s waiting for you on your return to the office and find pleasure on the small things; the worst Christmas cracker joke  or that Fools and Horses episode you love the most that’s on EVERY year.

5. Break out of old habits and encourage others to do the same – if you’ve always had Christmas dinner on the dot of two, what about having it in the evening, or changing it up for a buffet? How about going to a different sisters for lunch this year? Instead 0f a tree, what about decorated branches in a  big vase. Changing it up helps to break habits which changes neural pathways and is good for getting you out of a rut. Things will feel newer and exciting and might change people’s old patterns of behaviours as well, and get them out of their comfort zones

if you give any of these a try, or have your own mindful tips to add let me know, and above all have a peaceful, and mindful festive season 💜💝

The (almost) no present Christmas

This Christmas things are very different in our household. The decorations will be up, the cards will be written and sent, the mince pies are already being tested, but there’s one big change. We’re not sending and receiving presents.

With the exception of a secret santa, and a few homemade biscuits for our families, we have made the decision not to give or receive gifts this year. This has caused some upset, and has made us seem probably a bit like a 21st Century version of Scrooge to others. Yet as I investigated the internet to see if we were the only ones, I came across people time and time again agonising over whether to give or ask not to receive gifts, for many different reasons; finances being a big one, but also the over consumption of ‘stuff’ for themselves, their children and the vast wastage of goods when you either get something you really don’t like or won’t use, or even the fact of just having to remove the enormous amount of packaging that comes with everything.

For us there are a few reasons we took this decision. We are trying to be minimalists, and we have a small home. Every Christmas although we’re extremely grateful people want to give us presents, we have to find room for more and more things. As the years are going by our wants are getting so few, it’s harder to find anything we need or desire and so we end up wasting people’s money.

Secondly present giving is often a ‘I’ll spend £30 pounds on you, and you’ll spend £30 pounds on me. What do you want for Christmas?’ Given what I’ve said about being hard to buy for, it’s no wonder poor people ask everyone what they want for Christmas so as not to waste their hard earned cash, but it begs the question to me, if you don’t know what I want, please get to know me better so you know what to buy me. I’d much prefer that. You see to me the gift of showing up, the gift of time, the gift of being there for the shitty bits far outweighs any gift I might get. I’m not being glib, I do love presents sometimes, but I also prefer to spend time thinking about the person I’m buying for, get some nice wrapping paper, or buy them an experience they’ll remember. I would prefer it when times are down that someone says ‘What can I do to help?’ That to me is the greatest gift anyone could give. Their time and their love.

Christmas was once (in case any of the younger generation aren’t clear) a religious festival. I’m not religious, I don’t celebrate Eid or Ramadan, so why would I celebrate a Christian festival? Now it’s just an orgy for over consumerism, and getting worse each year, and I don’t celebrate that either.

I like to give gifts but on my own terms. Something I spot for someone that makes me think of them, something that cheers someone up like a bunch of flowers or a gift that I’ve really thought about. I didn’t ever want people to think I don’t love them. I’m a big old ball of love, but I just want to express it by showing up and being there, not by buying a Boots 3 for 2.

The other key aspect of not buying gifts is of course the finance. This year if I’d bought all the gifts I’d done in years before I would have had to use my credit card. Money is all budgeted out for us, and a big expense like that just can’t be taken out of a monthly budget. Yes I could budget for 12 months to pay for a days worth of excess, but that just doesn’t work for me right now.

The result is although it has been hard to explain to the people I love why I am not buying gifts this year, it’s been worth it. I am far more enjoying Christmas without worrying who to buy for, what to buy and how I’ll pay for it. I feel festive, and free and for the first time in years, I am looking to enjoy Christmas for the key parts for me; family time, good old films and mulled wine! So now off to perfect the homemade Christmas biscuits…

The clothes buying ban – an update

So it’s been nearly a month now since the self imposed buying ban. If you have no idea what I am on about, you can read my post here on the decision not to buy any clothes for a 6 month period. The aim of this torturous activity was to identify why I kept buying so many clothes, many of which did not satisfy the feeling I was looking for in buying them for the first place.

So in a month have I collapsed and bought a mountain of cloth? Am I gnawing at my fingers, desperate for a new top? Surprisingly not, although there have been some mild panic induced moments, particularly when a sale pops up unawares outside of my mail filtering tools.

Initially I made a note of what I chose to wear and realised I do have a style without even realising it. I like plain clothes in slightly alternative styles with contrasting and bright accessories or layers. So a black dress with a floral blazer, or a colour block dress with a bright yellow necklace. I do not like fuss in clothes. So plain lines, not too many pleats, no frills and definitely no rips. Pretty much your classic shift/sweater dress , a blazer, a shirt or a t-shirt. Nothing too fancy. For work I like a one piece dress and a blazer or a cardigan. For home I like jeans or jeggings and a tunic, or a shirt or t-shirt. I like to have a couple of day dresses for occasions and a few outfits for more swish occasions. I like plain colours and I like bold patterns. I like dark neutrals and bright brights. I do not like anything in between like tie die or little diamonds or god forbid beige or baby blue. So I knew this already, but it was buried in me. I was trying to find an alternative style, to be something I’m not.

Why has it taken me soooo long to work this out? And we’re talking the whole two years I’ve been practicing minimalism , not just a few weeks. I’ve been buying clothes on a pretty regular basis, in fairly consistent quantities for ages. I buy them, I look at them, I might wear them a few times and then mindfulness takes over and I realise I don’t feel great in them.

Taking this purchase pause is allowing me to breathe…it’s taken away the impulse to buy because I’ve told myself I can’t. I’ve also gotten more creative with clothing. So I used some Dylon dye and I’ve dyed a purple  tweed blazer ( one word, why?) that’s been hanging in my wardrobe for ages a lovely shade of indigo and I’ve employed my not so great hand sewing skills to turn a denim dress I’m bored of into a peplum top I really love. I’m pretty proud of this. With less in my wardrobe and nowhere to turn I’m looking at what I’ve got and thinking ‘what can I do with this?’ I’ve not run out of clothes yet, and everything I’ve worn I feel good in. I feel like ‘me’. No I can’t explain it either but I think it’s about being more mindful about my wardrobe and thinking ‘What do I actually like to wear?’

I still have just over five months to go so we’re not out of the woods yet – there’s still the fact I’ve got a pretty small winter wardrobe, so layering will have to be the order of the day and I have to get past the lure of the January sale…My ban ends in March and my current aim is to buy a few pieces then to compliment what I know I love.

Fancy working better with your wardrobe? Here’s some tips to get you started

  1. A purchase pause. Even if it feels like going cold turkey and you can only do it for a month, resisting the urge to spend all your free income on a few new ‘bits’ to tart up your wardrobe and going back to look at what you have will really help you gain perspective
  2. Upcycle it – Can you dye the t-shirt you’d quite like if it was a darker shade? Can you take up the hem on the maxi you’d love as a knee length dress? Will altering the sleeves or changing the neckline give you a new outfit? Give it a try
  3. Clothes swap – Lots of cities and towns now have clothes swapping parties- the crux with this one is you have to be the same size as someone else which as a large woman leaves you with little option but if you can find a party that works for you, then you can create yourself a new wardrobe for nothing and get rid of your old stuff to boot
  4. Put things into seasons – even if you’re short on space, making your wardrobe seasonal is a better way to see what you have and haven’t got, and what you might need. That way you get rid of those jumpers in summer, and when it comes to pulling them out again, you’ve often forgotten what you had and you almost get a new wardrobe! You can use vaccum bags and store under the bed, or fill a suitcase.

Be More Holiday

There’s advert you may have seen on TV called ‘Be more dog’. It’s around the concept that dogs re pretty cool, laidback animals that have a far better adn fun life than a cat. (I actually disagree, our cats would probably also disagree as they get to roam off and explore while the dogs have to stay at home or go on enforced walks in silly jumpers). However the concept is actually a brilliant one and one I want to use in my life after my recent holiday to Madeira. To ‘Be more holiday’.

Where am I going with this? Well on holiday I felt calm, more relaxed, time slowed. I enjoyed the sunshine, the food, I took my time to relax. It got me to thinking that when you’re on holiday, you’re in a different mindset, one where enjoyment is the main objective. You set out to have as much relaxation and fun as is possible. Yet once we get back on the plane or train, or back into the car and go back home, we go back to our responsibilities, the immersion heater on the blink so lack of hot water, the long hours of work and the daily grind that means we need a holiday from it in the first place.

So what if we could be more holiday all the time? Bring that sense of enjoyment and relaxation to every day life? Sure long lie ins and drinking sangria in a can aren’t necessarily something that can be done every day, but actually making time to take a half day off work to have a relaxing lie in or making cocktails just because you can aren’t bad ideas. Appreciating nature, even when it’s raining, and the possibilities of your day are things you do on holiday. Can we do them at home? If you get caught in a downpour on holiday, it’s the perfect excuse for a hot shower, and the colder the rain the more delightful a hot fire, or toasty heating and a hot chocolate with marshmallows seems. There’s plenty of opportunities to get rained on in daily life, but we don’t often see them as an opportunity to get cosied up. Getting up and having your whole day before you and planning to go and do something fun isn’t something most of us do often on weekends or our day off. Instead we fit in all the things we have to do (or think we have to do) and all that cleaning we didn’t get done in the week, and the weekend passes by in a minute of chores and bother.

So I am planning to be more ‘holiday’ and if you fancy joining me here are five ways to get started:

  1. This weekend, instead of worrying about hoovering or tidying up, do an extra 10 minutes of housework each day and then plan a day out       as you would on holiday. Is there anything you fancy doing? Going an visiting a castle, a theme park, a day out in a new city or town for a potter round? Imagine you’re on holiday and look at what’s available in the local area. I can guarantee you’ll find loads you’ve never done
  2. If you’re lucky enough to have a flexible working policy, book yourself a lie in. Rather than jumping out of bed straight away, luxuriate in the warmth, bring yourself a coffee back to bed, buy a paper, watch some awful daytime TV, go for a lovely walk. If you can’t flexibly work, book yourself half a days holiday. If you’ve got kids at school, this is the prime time to go back for an after breakfast nap!
  3. Try a new recipe- often when we’re on holiday we want to try the local food, or something new. Then back at home we’re eating the same food we always do because it’s easy. Pick something a bit more exciting, try a new food, add some side dishes, make the meal a real occasion. Get yourself a bottle of wine. Even if it’s a Wednesday and you really shouldn’t.
  4. Start trying to think and act differently – when on holiday I feel almost like I have a directive to relax and enjoy my time– does it have to be different at home? OK so the pots won’t wash themselves and most of us do have to go to work but can we do that with the mindset of life is for living? Can we do the pots to our favourite music? Can we work in something we truly love so it doesn’t feel like work? Can we use the boring bus journey to dive into a good book? Making the more mundane parts of life more fun can bring out that holiday spirit
  5. Wearing brighter and more fun clothing- So how many of us are guilty of buying new clothes, or wearing brighter clothes or something a bit more daring or unusual on holiday. OK so the chances are you might have been somewhere at least 15 degrees hotter than where you live, however we’re back to this mentality of saving the good bits of life for our holiday. Whilst you might not want to wear your favourite bikini to Tesco’s, try getting your bright maxi dress out or in my case I’m keeping my jungle print trousers out to get me through winter. They probably are as bad as they sound…

Hygge and Mindfulness – Partners in time

For those of you who don’t avidly Pinterest or Instagram, or follow a number of the more hipster types on twitter (or you’re Danish)  hygge might have bypassed me up to now. Let me introduce you.  Visit Denmark puts it far better than I can…

‘Hygge is as Danish as pork roast and cold beer and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. And let’s not forget the eating and drinking – preferably sitting around the table for hours on end discussing the big and small things in life. ‘

Essentially hygge is simple living Danish stylee. Friends, family, candlelight, food, warmth, cosiness. All the ingredients for an experience that money does not buy. So why is everyone getting obsessed with hygge over here all of a sudden?  Because actually that kind of life, with no pressures, no deadlines, long leisurely dinners with candles, lingering over a glass or two of wine (rather than a bottle or two) is just not the average Brit’s lifestyle these days. We’re obsessed with more, more, more, faster , faster, faster. There’s no doubt that the simple living and mindfulness movements are gaining ground in response to this as people like me step off the treadmill shouting ‘enough already’.

Actually hygge is just another way of slowing down and experiencing, just like mindfulness. Of being present, of lingering in cosy surroundings and not putting pressure on yourself about tomorrow’s problems or worrying about yesterdays slights. Of being here, now. Isn’t it interesting that so many people are turning towards ideas that involve less buying, less time beavering away at work, less time trawling social media and the internet in exchange for time spent with yourself and a good book, with your loved ones and supper. I think we’re actually fed up with the fast life and are desperately looking for solutions that give us an antidote. For those who shiver in  horror at the thoughts of meditating or moving mindfully around a bit like a Tai Chi master, hygge offers a more down to earth alternative. It sits very much with the mindful concept of being compassionate to yourself and others. What greater gift can you give someone you love than to spend quality time with them? Embracing comfy pyjamas and a night of the Archer’s omnibus is a great way of showing compassion to yourself in an otherwise hard edged week. So let’s embrace this latest craze. I’m off to light my candles.

If you’re interesting in exploring hygge for yourself, here’s an article on 8 ways to embrace hygge to get you started

The biggest minimalist challenge I’ve undertaken

For more regular readers of my blog you’ll know I’ve decluttered and rid myself of immense amounts of stuff from the bits of paper and detritus that fill our drawers to more extreme items like our TV. We’ve got a way to go in our guest bedroom where it’s the antidote to minimalism right now but once we’ve completed that, there will be very little left in our home that doesn’t serve us or bring us joy.

There is one area though that I have struggled with over the last two years and one I’ve never resolved and I’ve decided now is the time to address it. My wardrobe.

I’ve tried everything from following the fabulous Unfancy’s 37 piece capsule to trying a personal uniform to bulk buying and now I’ve got to the point now where I buy one or two things at least every month if not more. Yet I still went into my rack of clothes this weekend and declared ‘I have nothing to wear’. This is ridiculous. Whilst I don’t have that many clothes anymore I probably have enough to wear for at least a month or two without washing anything. I cannot get past this and it’s debilitating me. It’s causing me stress because I can’t resolve it, financially it holds me back as I try more and more different styles and items. So I have decided it’s time for a different tack and one which is very scary for me – a clothes buying ban for 6 months using mindfulness. By using mindfulness I feel I can identify the feelings I connect with clothes buying, and the anxiety that I am just not getting my outfits right and work towards loosening my grip on the belief that buying clothes is going to make me happy.

There are a couple of things I know I need – a new winter coat for dark early mornings ( I haven’t bought one for a few years and the one I have is coming apart at the seams -literally)

A navy T-Shirt dress which I have been looking for, for months, and cannot find

Possibly a pair of gloves- I haven’t seen any in my winter stuff as yet.

These are my ‘allowed’ purchases over the next six months. Other than that I am going to go cold turkey. During this time I am going to journal and see how it feels. I can tell you now I feel fear. How will I cope with no new clothes? What is my wardrobe going to look like? I can answer this one…very much the same as it does now. I have enough cardigans and jumpers to get me through the winter. I know all about layering so I can stick a vest under my clothes. I am going to have to delete all email newsletters from retail stores tempting me like a magpie with the funky prints and jewel bright colours. Why would I do this? Because as I am I am using a scattergun approach to buying and wearing, and it still doesn’t bring me happiness and I can sense there’s something much deeper to this persistent buying of clothes. That I am linking it to a sense of identity in some way and tying my internal happiness up with an external gratification that I am just not getting anyway. I’m looking forward to spending the next six months identifying and connecting more with this. Mostly anyway. Part of me is actually terrified at the thought of not buying anything.

So that’s it. Aside from the parka, and possibly a navy dress if it crosses my horizon I am going to live with what I have and explore what that feels like. I am planning to adapt a couple of the items I have to make them into something slightly different. I’ll report back each month, and if anyone identifies with these feelings and is brave enough to join me, let’s link up and report back together.